Getting Into Fitness The Spartan Way With Joe De Sena And Dealing With Jerks With Eric Williamson

Mastering the mindset of a warrior requires a lot of dedication and perseverance. Embodying that in starting his business, founder and CEO of the world’s largest obstacle, race and endurance brand, Spartan, Joe De Sena shares with us his journey towards endurance races and helping people push beyond what they thought was possible. He takes us into his world, sharing interesting stories of how people prepare in this kind of extreme fitness and offering great inspiration for you to achieve your personal best.

Whatever you do and wherever you work, jerks are all around you. President and CEO of Tailored Training Solutions, Eric Williamson talks about how to deal and work with jerks. Whether you are in conflict or having a tough time getting along with someone, Eric shows you a way out of their negative space with a three-step process.  Join Eric as he teaches you ways on how to deal with jerks and take your leadership skills to the next level.

TTL 620 | Dealing With Jerks


I’m so glad you joined us because we have Joe De Sena and Eric Williamson. Joe is the Founder and CEO of Spartan. Spartan has grown and become an amazing thing to get people in shape. Eric is the author of How to Work with Jerks: Getting Stuff Done with People You Can’t Stand. He’s a keynote speaker and expert consultant. We’re going to have an interesting discussion with both of them.

Listen to the podcast here

Getting Into Fitness The Spartan Way With Joe De Sena

I am here with Joe De Sena, who is the CEO and Founder of Spartan, the world’s largest obstacle, race and endurance brand. He’s also the New York Times bestselling author of Spartan Up, Spartan Fit and Spartan Way. It’s so nice to have you here. Can I call you, Joe? 

That’d be great.

I loved your TEDx Talk. I feel bad that I don’t do burpees after watching that. I did attend an event where Randi Zuckerberg, the sister of the famous Zuckerberg got up on stage and did burpees in a skirt and I had to give her credit because she had heels.

I wonder if it had anything to do with my talk. I wonder why she was doing burpees.

That’s her thing. She loves doing burpees. She might’ve watched your TED Talk and been converted. I don’t remember if she said what got her into it. Joe Polish had an event here called the Genius Network in Arizona. She was one of the guest speakers and they were up on stage. 

That’s why. I got Joe Polish into them. I made Joe do 200 with me when he was sick. He was getting everybody to do that.

He probably did give you credit for it. It’s been a couple of years since I went to that event. I think it’s great and they’re hard. You had a great story you told in your TEDx Talk about how you did quite a few. Do you want to talk a little bit about that? Before we get into that, I want to get background because you have an interesting way of falling into what you’ve done. You were in the pool and construction business. Can you give a little background for people who don’t know it?

I grew up in Queens, New York. My neighbor, who was the boss of one of the big organized crime families saw that my family was going through a divorce and my father was having some financial troubles. He took me under his wing at a young age and he had me clean the swimming pool. That eventually grew over the next decade to a pretty substantial business that eventually became a construction company. My mom wanted to get me away from all that, moved my sister and me to Ithaca, New York. I would fly and drive back and forth to go back and run my business and then spend summers with my dad, which was the primary time of year for that business. She tried to get me into yoga, meditation, health and food.

She was 40 years before her time. I met an Italian guy in Ithaca, New York who had gone to Cornell University. I didn’t even know what Cornell was. Nobody had guided me to a college. He begged me to get out of the neighborhood, sell my business, helped me get into Cornell and then pushed me to go to Wall Street. You’re right. It’s been like a pinball machine. I ended up doing pool construction, went to an Ivy League school somehow by accident and then ended up on Wall Street. I sold that and bought a farm in Vermont with my wife and had four kids. Spartan was born as a hobby and it turned out to be a global business.

It’s hard to leave some of the jobs you’ve had. I was watching one of your talks where you talked about having the golden handcuffs and I’ve had that working in mortgages and different things where in sales, you just make so much money that it can be impossible in your mind that you could ever want to leave and you’ve got to start all over again from the bottom. That’s a tough thing to do. It’s so stressful in sales that sometimes something sends you over the cliff. I’m curious what set you over the cliff? I know you mentioned that you didn’t want to be behind a computer, that there was just so much money, but what was the thing that made you say, “I got to leave Wall Street?”

It’s probably a combination of 911. I always had a picture of a barn on my desk and that was where I was going. For me, some people wanted to make a never endless supply of money and I wasn’t that person. I just wanted enough to make life a little easier. I recognized at a young age that life is short. I think that’s what it is in a nutshell. If you don’t squeeze every ounce of juice out of it, I think you could regret it. I watched my mom died at a young age. My dad died, my grandparents and friends. That was a reality check.

You stumble on this adventure racing and you get in this unbelievable amount of fitness craze that you’re into, but you’re spending all this money to get other people to go to these things. You said you were spending $600,000 a race. What happens when nobody shows up? Where are you getting this money and what gave you the lack of fear to do that?

If we master the principles of a warrior mindset, you'll conquer and crush life. Click To Tweet

I think two things. One is once I was so invested, which is a good lesson for anybody reading, I had no choice but to continue. I jumped off the cliff and I was already in the air. At that point, it had nothing to do with fear anymore. It’s about survival. I used up all the savings that I had put away throughout my life. On top of that, I got friends and family and tried to put business deals together that would get me much needed cash. It was like Cinderella turned it into a pumpkin very often.

What year was that you started going into this adventure type of business.

I started in 2000, 2001.

Can you talk about the Quebec Wilderness incident?

I was in Quebec. I had signed up for a race that was going to get me tuned up to do long-distance events. The race was up in Northern Quebec. I had no business being there, but I’m a pretty bold guy. I joined the team and this was going to be a quick tune-up to get me ready for a bigger event called the Iditarod in Alaska. It should be simple but it was a nightmare. We found ourselves on top of a mountain getting ready to rappel and the team in front of us was stuck because the rope had come loose on the mountainside. We’re talking a 1,500-foot drop. Death is a certainty and we decided that rather than wait for the rope, we would start snowshoe-ing down a shortcut. That shortcut was literally like a 007 movie. It looked like bowling balls rolling down the hill, bumping into things and falling off drops. When we got to the bottom seven or eight hours later, we looked up and a little bit to the right was all sheer cliffs for most of them and somehow we had stayed in this narrow path of snow coming down. We should have been dead.

I have rock climbed and so I’m getting this horrible vision of what that would be. I’m also snow skied and I can’t even imagine. How long did it take you to get down.

It was at least eight hours. At one point, I was hanging from a tree branch. It was complete craziness, but we were so tired and so delirious. We’ve been going so many days that I think that’s why we fell into that stupidity.

If you had stayed and waited for the rope, would you have made it or not?

We probably would have been better off staying and waiting for the rope. It’s one of those instances where patience was probably the right move.

You never know at the time. That is when you decided that you’d made the distinction between difficult and desperate experience. You started your endurance races and created your own. Let’s talk about those. What are those involved?

It’s called Spartan. It’s in 45 countries, 275 events and about 1.3 million people a year compete. You could envision a military-inspired obstacle race. You’re crawling under barbed wire, you’re climbing over walls, you’re climbing ropes, swimming, jumping, running and it’s becoming incredibly popular.

The mud thing, is that in there too? 

TTL 620 | Dealing With Jerks
Dealing With Jerks: Somehow the actual obstacles on the Spartan course become analogies for the participant’s own life and it just makes them stronger.


There is some mud in some of the events. Some of the events are more sterile. When you’ve got 8,000 or 10,000 people on the side of a mountain and it rains or snows, you’re going to get mud. That’s not our focus. We’re focused on the obstacles and we’re focused on the transformations that take place. Everything’s athletic in nature, and we have a goal of being an Olympic sport.

When you foresee that happening?

2028 is our goal.

How long does it take to get through the course?

There are different distances. Anywhere from an hour to fourteen or fifteen hours, it just depends.

If you’re doing this fourteen to fifteen hours, how do they refuel? Do you have IV goo? How do you get through that without nutrition?

People are bringing in some of their nutrition. We’ve got stuff on course. When they’re doing something that long, they’ve got dropped bags and they’re refueling.

How good a shape do you have to be in to do this? What kind of preparation does it take for somebody? If you’re going to the gym three times a week, you can’t do the one-hour thing even or can you?

Anybody could do any of it. I would say the biggest thing with any event like this or anything challenging is to avoid injury. I’m big on yoga, mobility and flexibility as a focus because if you can get mobile and flexible and avoid injury, then it’s the mind-muscle that holds you back. If you’ve got tenacity and you’re resilient, if you’re an entrepreneur, if you’re a mom, a Marine, even a monk, and you’ve got the mindset and you can avoid injury, you’ll get through it.

That’s what always got me. I would do all the training and then I end up injured. I did everything they would say and I get a stress fracture. If you have bad knees or any of that type of thing, you can’t do this. This is meant for people who were pretty fit.

You can always walk it. There are people out there without legs, arms, in wheelchairs and paralyzed. You’ll get through it one way or another. Everybody’s got bad knees. My recommendation there is tons of yoga, but if you want to get through it, you’ll get through it.

What’s the cost of doing something like this?

One of the ways that people can achieve this awareness is through training, through working with me to help that out. Click To Tweet

It’s about $100, $125 an entry.

What’s the age group that mostly does this? Is there a specific age group or is it all uniform? 

We’re at seven-years-old to 70, but 32 to 35-years-old is the average age.

When I was watching you saying that you were putting all this money and you’re losing money at the beginning, you said one day it got better. What made the difference? What was that thing that tipped it where it became so successful?

We got lucky with the name. The name Spartan is an incredible name. It’s very catchy with 2,500 years of history. It means something. The logo’s pretty bad-ass. The product itself speaks for itself. When you come across the finish line, you are literally transformed. We have a world championship in Lake Tahoe and no less than 500 people came up to me. Many of them are crying, hugging me and telling me they lost weight, they’re no longer drinking, they gave up drugs, they’re back with their husband and they’re back with their wife. They just got through two friends committing suicide. The stories are unbelievable. Somehow the actual obstacles on the course become analogies for their own life and it just makes them stronger.

If you can’t do an obstacle, you can skip it but do you have to do 30 burpees still?

30 burpees, no way out.

What obstacles do people usually skip? What is too hard and people go, “No.”

We’re never going to let you skip it, but you’ve got to try it. People have a tough time with the rope climb. They have a tough time with a monkey bar. They have a tough time with the spear row. Everybody’s ambition is to have the “perfect race” where they’ve got no skipped obstacles, no missed obstacles, no burpees, but it’s hard to deal.

How many obstacles would you come into with an hour if you were doing it for an hour or so?

About twenty.

It was fun to watch your TED Talk because not only do I get to watch you do burpees so I can try and imitate that. You tied it into the art of pool maintenance, which I love. That was cool. The description of how the pool is like a body. Anybody who hasn’t watched that should watch that. 

TTL 620 | Dealing With Jerks
Spartan Up! A Take-No-Prisoners Guide to Overcoming Obstacles and Achieving Peak Performance in Life

It’s very similar, isn’t it?

Yes, I never thought of it until you said it. You’ve also written these books that I talked about, a Spartan Up, Spartan Fit. How is Spartan Way different from the two? What is your message?

I got the opportunity to spend time with the preeminent Spartan professor from Cambridge University and we talked about at that time in history, what set the Spartans apart? You look at samurai warriors or the ancient runners from certain tribes in New Mexico. What you find is that this warrior mindset boils down to some principles that if we follow them, if we master them, you’ll conquer life, you crush life. I wish I could say I invented them, but I didn’t. I seem to be very naturally focused on them. I learned them at a young age. Maybe not using the same nomenclature that the ancient warriors did, but it’s teaching people these ten principles that say, “If you did nothing else but you master these, you’re good to go.”

Can you give me a couple of principles to give people an idea? 

One is not wasting time. Everything you’re doing, are you doing things that are moving or closer to your goal? Whether you’re on social media or staying an extra hour or two drinking with your friends or waking up late, those are hours you can’t get back. That’s the time that would’ve gotten you closer to your goal. There are so many people I’ve met that have said, “I was so close to the Olympic trials,” or “I was this and I could’ve been that.” When you dig in, you find out why they wasted time. They did things that didn’t move the needle. Another one is figuring out your true purpose. It’s very hard to do, but clearly I found mine and when you find it, it’s lights out. You are getting pulled to your destination.

What do you consider your purpose? 

For me, it’s to change lives. I want to get people healthy. This is why I was put on the earth and it wasn’t to work on Wall Street. It wasn’t to clean swimming pools. I love helping people get closer to their full potential. That’s what I’m here to do.

How out of shape were you ever? You talk about being overweight and going up and down the stairs at work I’ve read about. Were you a smoker or overweight seriously? How bad was it? 

My fighting weight is 172 and at my peak, I was 215.

How tall are you? 

I’m 5’10” and was pumped. I didn’t feel good. I’m not a smoker. I drank because that’s what we did, but I don’t like the taste of alcohol. I completely went back to my mother’s teachings and philosophy, which were from India and yoga-based, meditation-based and Ayurvedic-based. I felt better.

What do you eat? 

Emotional intelligence is about managing your emotions and getting through a situation so you can get something done with whoever it is. Click To Tweet

If you said, “What does the Joe food pyramid look like?” 65% of the bottom part of the triangle are vegetables. The next slice of the triangle would be almond, cashews, walnuts and plant-based oils. The very top of the pyramid is some eggs, fish and tiny amounts of meat. I hardly ever eat meat.

No carbs? 

I get a ton of carbs from veggies, but I’m not eating rice or potatoes, bread, cookies, chips or fries. I did, they’ve come in and out of my life heavily at times, but I found the diet I described to you is the ideal diet.

Do you have a cheat though? Do you like eating chocolate bars once in a while, a cake at a party or do you always stick to it?

It’s been ten years since I’ve had anything bread-related. It’s been at least five years since I’ve had any real junk.

Don’t you miss pizza?

I think about pizza but it’s not the actual pizza I miss. It’s the memories when you’re around friends. Once I learned the psychology of food, I’ve been able to shut off that urge. I get it. You just set it and it triggered my visualization of the neighborhood.

Some people eat because they loved the whole experience. I’m a very refueled person, so I don’t get all excited about meals. I’ve never been a foodie, but it’s hard for people who are foodies. Do you deal with that a lot with people who can’t give it up?

First of all, there’s no one reading this that is more interested in food than me. If I’m able to not eat bread or not eat pizza from the neighborhood I’m from and from the background that I have, anybody can do it because yes, I love food, but I’ve had to change my taste. It takes a month or two, but you stick to it.

It’s so psychological. I had a hard time giving up chocolate. I remember I had to give up bread and chocolate and some of the harder ones at one point. You think you can’t until you do it and then a month later you’re like, “This isn’t that big a deal,” after you do it.

You got to get through it.

I’m curious about what your day’s like. I know at one point you were doing 400 burpees a day and you’re trying to do 10,000 one day for that one social media blitz. What’s your typical day for exercising in general?

TTL 620 | Dealing With Jerks
Dealing With Jerks: There are two types of jerks. Jerks who are unaware that they are jerks and jerks who are aware, but they don’t care.


I would say 99.9% of the time I work out in the morning before. As soon as I wake up, it’s a couple of glasses of room temp water I down pretty fast.

Why room temp? 

An old Italian guy in my teens said, “Stay away from the ice cube. Stay away from too hot and go with room temp.” That’s what I do. His argument to me was your body goes into dialysis at night and it’s filtering out the blood and trying to clean things out. You’ve got a flush out those filters because don’t forget, I was cleaning swimming pools at that time and that made sense to me. It’s the same thing you do with the pool filters. I thought as soon as I wake up to the big glasses of room temp water, I pretty much go right into my exercise routine, whatever it happens to be. I would say 80% of the time it’s twenty-plus body-weight exercises that are 50 repetitions each. It’s somewhere between 1,000 and 1,300 repetitions of these exercises. The burpee is in there. It’s a bunch of moves I picked up over all these years between my mom and a wrestling coach and Conor McGregor and the CEO of LinkedIn. It’s up to 23 exercises. Every time I’m around somebody, I add another one to it.

How much time does that take you? 

I can get it done in an hour or less.

It’s all bodyweight. Are you not using any weight resistance?

No, all body-weight.

You’re born in ’69. You hit that big number. Is it getting harder? 

I’m pretty fit. I could go out and run a 50 miler. I don’t have any injuries or problems because I think I’m so maniacal. If you looked at my body-weight exercises, they’re very yoga-ish. Everything focused on flexibility and mobility. If I use a car analogy, if you see the blinking light on the dashboard, if I feel anything on it right away, if an ankle is bothering me or something, I’m immediately working it out right away. I feel pretty good. I carry a kettlebell everywhere I go also and I’ve been doing that for about four years.

Are you one-sided? Where do you hold it? 

Every ten seconds I’m switching hands and putting on my shoulder. I’m dying to get rid of the thing nonstop. It’s so much pain. I do it because it started as a joke a little bit. I spend four years and it puts a little bit of load on me, which is good. I take stairs instead of elevators and escalators when I can and I’m carrying it. That’s good for cardio. I’m getting in and out of a taxi cab or going to the airport.

You do a lot of that because you’re speaking a lot.

Once you understand someone else’s values, you gain some insight into why people behave the way they do. Click To Tweet

I’m on the road five days a week.

You have kids and family. I saw that you have business ideas. You’ve got a pretty busy schedule. What happens if this becomes an Olympic event? What does that do to your life?

If it becomes an Olympic event in 2028, hopefully, my kids are competing.

You do some very interesting things. I loved your TED Talk. Your books are amazing and I was looking forward to this. It was fun having you on the show. Hopefully, I’ll see you at a future event. How can people reach you if they want to find out more or participate in your events

Send me an email, I’m happy to help anybody. Money should never be a blocker. I want to get people off the couch and healthy. Check out our podcast, Spartan Up.

I hope they do and thank you so much for being on this show, Joe. This was fun. 

Thank you.

You’re welcome.

Dealing With Jerks With Eric Williamson

I am here with Eric Williamson, who’s the president and CEO of Tailored Training Solutions, which helps organizations build stronger customer and workplace relationships. He’s referred to as the connector. He is the author of the book, How to Work with Jerks: Getting Stuff Done with People You Can’t Stand. It’s nice to have you here, Eric.

Thank you. It’s good to be here. Thanks for having me.

I was looking forward to it. I watched one of your talks about how other people told you were the jerk and that people couldn’t stand to work with you. That’s not true is it?

No, that’s true. I’ve been a jerk quite a few times. I think that the first time that I can recall being a jerk was first when I got my first full-time job and I was fresh out of college. I thought I had everything going for me. You couldn’t tell me anything. People were trying to help me out and I said, “Slow down. I got this. I don’t need my mentor telling me how to do certain things. I got a 3.5 GPA. If I can do that, I could do well at this job.” It didn’t go well at all. It was an epic fail almost.

TTL 620 | Dealing With Jerks
How to Work with Jerks: Getting Stuff Done with People You Can’t Stand

I researched emotional intelligence for my doctoral dissertation and a lot of it is self-awareness. You’re known for being empathetic and engaging. That’s all emotional intelligence.

When people talk about emotional intelligence, it can easily get into very technical conversations, self-awareness and self-regulation. Through my experience of going through working with people and having certain types of relationships, I realized that its essence is about managing your emotions and being able to get through a conflict or a situation so that you can get something done with whoever it is. There are so many instances where people who are talented, bright and want to make an impact on something, they fall short in a lot because they can’t get along with the person that they’re working with, whether it’s a boss or a colleague and they end up leaving. They don’t pull with their full effort in. They’re disengaged and it’s a shame. When I hear people talk about emotional intelligence, it’s like, “That’s the popular thing to do.” The book that I wrote and the stories that I have, I’ve tried to bring it down to earth about what it’s about. It’s about managing relationships the best that you can, even if you don’t care for the person.

How do you work with Steve Jobs? Everybody asked you that. I’m sure.

A lot of times it doesn’t matter if it’s Steve Jobs or anyone who’s got a different certain personality. A lot depends on the situation. It all depends on how you respond or how you deal with certain situations. Depending on what the situation is, I’ve got a three-step process to help me deal exactly with that situation. It’s not a cookie-cutter approach. What works for responding to Steve Jobs can be something completely different from responding to somebody else. A lot of it is situational. The three-step process that I call the Assess, Analyze, Act method helps you out regardless of who you working with.

Let’s talk about assess. What do you do? Do you review the situation? Can you go into a little detail about each of those?

When you’re in conflict with someone or you’re having a tough time getting along with someone, step one is called the assess method. The assess method means not just assessing the situation, but assessing your physical response to the situation. If you’re talking about bad news or someone’s trying to throw you under the bus, what’s your immediate reaction? Some people shut down. With some people, their heart beats fast or they have these nonverbal gestures that they’re not aware of. They may suck their teeth, they may roll their eyes, and their palms might be sweaty. The first step is assessing how your body’s responding to the situation. Once you do that, that’s the first sign that something’s wrong, that you are stressed. Something is potentially building. It’s not only assessing what you’re going through but assessing what the other person’s response is as well. They may have certain nonverbal gestures. They may be portraying certain body language that you need to be aware of as well. Once you’re able to assess, you become more self-aware that this is a situation that’s tense.

I might say something that’s impulsive and we might not be focused on that goal. The second step is to analyze. You want to analyze that situation. What’s prompting your body language to respond in a certain way? Are you pressed for a tight deadline? Is someone throwing you under the bus? Do you have competing priorities or are you working with a multimillion-dollar budget and it’s not going well? Are you stuck in traffic and you’re late to get to work? You’ve got so much stuff going on. You want to come to terms with what’s causing that conflict to occur. Once you are able to analyze that, then this next step is act. You have a full understanding of what your physical response is and how to change that. You come to terms with what the driving source of that stress is. You’re in a position where you’ve been able to do a careful view, consider all sides of the situation, and you can act most appropriately.

You can respond in a more thoughtful manner. Let’s be real, a lot of times, we go right to step three with the situation and we can’t help ourselves. The only way this three-step process works is with practice. You have to constantly be able to do that. This three-step process, I believe other companies that have used maybe similar approaches. I was at a talk for Starbucks. They have this thing for customer service where you’re dealing with a bad customer called Latte. I looked at him and like, “This is not similar, but it’s a process that people follow when dealing with customers.” It’s something quick and it’s easy to comprehend. It’s something that you can’t overlook those three-step processes.

It’s interesting because that ties in quite a bit to my work with perception and the research I did. I found four things that happened in the perception process, which the acronym was EPIC. It was Evaluation, Prediction, Interpretation, and Correlation. It’s similar to what you’re talking about because perception is a huge factor at work because we have the reality that we’ve created. They have the reality they’ve created. It’s hard for people to recognize that they’re not the same. Don’t you think? Do you think most jerks know they’re jerks?

I drafted an article for a company. One of the things I add in there is that there are two types of jerks. There are jerks who are unaware that they are jerks and there are jerks who are aware, but they don’t care.

The second one is the worst.

Yes and no. The reason for that is the people who are unaware of it. It could be because if it’s a lack of training or maybe no one has ever walked up to them and said, “That kind of approach isn’t working for me.” That’s all they’ve known and they don’t change because no one has brought it to their attention.

They’re emulating people who were just like that.

Exactly. The people who are aware, they do it for a variety of reasons. I won’t go into every single reason, but sometimes they think it’s the most effective way. They were able to intimidate someone, lead through fear and discouragement that they get what they want. Either way, you can still be a jerk. The most eye-opening thing when I teach workshops or when I deliver keynote speeches, everyone has an idea of who a jerk is. They think of this person who’s completely evil, but when we start talking about who the jerk truly is, it is eye-opening because people will realize like, “I had been a jerk. I’ve been that way.” The reason for that is eye-opening because I talk about the traits and why people become jerks. There are circumstances of what causes people to become jerks, whether knowingly or unknowingly. What you just talked about is an example of what some people may emulate.

What are examples of jerk-like behavior? 

I’ve got some favorite examples. I’ve talked about a couple. I do some talks and one is a jerk who will throw you under the bus, but at the same time take credit for your work. They’re there during the good but not during the bad. They don’t always have your back. There are jerks who are rude and abrasive, who take things personally and they react on that by treating you for whatever reason in a bad way. I talk about a story where I had a boss who was a jerk and she told me to put this report together for our executives who were coming to town. I put the report together, but she stood over my shoulder like a micromanager, which is another example of a jerk. She was telling me what information to put in and to put out. She would then go over my shoulder and then I decided to have the gumption and add some information I knew our execs wanted to put in the report and she told me not to put it in. I took it out. She intimidated me. Lo and behold, when the execs arrived, they looked at the report. They said, “Where’s this information?” She called me in through her office with those execs and she said, “Where’s the information?”

Did you throw her under the bus? 

No, I did not. At that time, I was so intimidated. It was a very new job. I didn’t know how to deal with the situation. I just stared at her like a deer in the headlights and she said, “Don’t come back into this office until that information is put in there.” I went back to my desk and I proceeded to put the information in. Many people say, “I would’ve responded this way. I would’ve responded that way.” Hindsight is 20/20. One of the things I’d like to do was examine the pros and cons of dealing with those situations the other people suggest, like confronting the person right then and there. One of the things is what good would that do if you know this person’s personality? The execs, will they care about that? Maybe not.

They don’t want to see dirty laundry that’s out there. The execs were staying there the whole time. It’s not like they’re going to protect me from this person. It’ll make the situation worse. Some people said, “Pull her aside one day.” I’m like, “If you know this person’s personality, they still won’t give in.” They still wouldn’t admit that they were at fault. They would expect you to get the work done. Sometimes you can feel like you’re in a lose-lose situation, which is why you have to deal with those situations one moment at a time. That situation was difficult. I believe it was a cliffhanger about what happened to her, but ultimately she got demoted. That behavior caught up to her down the road. The thing that I end with on some of my presentations is that a lot of times we try to control someone else’s behavior.

That’s tough. You can’t do that. 

It’s not possible. The only thing you can do is control your behavior and that’s the best way to respond.

You bring up thoughts in my mind of bosses who’ve been better or not as good. To me, what I don’t like is a lack of respect. If somebody talks to me in a sarcastic or in a rude tone, that’s hard for me to deal with. As I got older, I started to take a lot less of that. When you’re young, you take abuse because you’re afraid. You don’t want to speak up. Plus I’m in a financial position where I don’t care. I can talk back at this point and some people aren’t in that position. They need that job so they’ll take a lot more. I think sometimes leaders give them a lot more because they know they will take a lot more. Is this book meant for leaders to recognize that they’re jerks or is it more for people to deal with these leaders who will never be going to recognize they’re jerks?

It’s meant for business leaders as well. I’ve got a special section just for business leaders about how they can work better with the people that they lead. I bring an awareness of some of the traits that they can exhibit, which causes them to become jerks. One of the things I’ve brought to light is the generational element. We’re privileged in our workplace to have five different generations all working together. It’s one of the things that you have to be aware of. Characterizing generations, it’s fraught with risk. I completely understand that, but we do have some traits, some experiences from different generations that if you are aware of those things, you can react, you can respond and you can treat those people in a better way.

I do some talks on generational differences and I totally agree with you that there are so many unique areas and a lot of it is asking people and using empathy and questioning, being curious about other people to realize that they have a different reality sometimes of what they’ve grown up with and what they’ve done. I think that can help. As you’re talking about what you have for leaders who are jerks, you have a chapter for that. I’m thinking of somebody who I know, who I would consider not a jerk at all, but has a very high work ethic. It’s beyond what most people would have as a work ethic. When people would work with her, they maybe didn’t want to work that hard and it would perceive her as a jerk because she wouldn’t get what she’d want out of them and maybe it would look like micromanagement to them. She’s probably one of the most impressive people I’ve ever met and yet people didn’t want to work for her. What advice do you give to somebody like her?

Here’s one of the things that I think has been effective. One of the team-building exercises that I recommend the person that you’re referencing and her colleagues or whoever that they work with, it doesn’t have to be a specific team, but maybe people who exist work together. I do something called a values exercise. In this values exercise, it requires people to identify as many values that are important to them as possible. In this worksheet there are about 60 to 70 different values. It could be family, it could be relationships, and it could be health. Each person is tasked with identifying, checking off how many things they value. They have to reduce that amount. If they select 60 things that they value, they reduce that amount to nine.

After they’ve reduced that amount to nine, they reduce it to six, and then they reduced it to three. That’s going to force them to identify three of their top core values. Once they do that, we discuss with whoever else is in this obsession about why they arrived at those three values. Once you understand what someone else values, that can give you some insight into why people behave the way they do. If someone has a strong work ethic, maybe one of their values is being precise or just being very thorough of what they do. That gives you some insight and then the vice versa to the other person about what they value.

Let’s say the people working for her value family, exercise and time off and she values precision, work ethic, those type of things and they don’t mix. What do you do?

That means that you have more diversity. You have different people who value different things and that’s exactly what you want. You don’t want to work in an environment where everyone is exactly like you. That gives a yin to someone’s yang. I bring an example of Millennials or different generations. One of the examples I talk about is work-life balance. Some generations, whether it’s Generation X or Millennials, a lot of times they value the work-life balance. That could be because their parents will always use to work when they were younger. Just because someone is not the type of person that will spend long hours after their scheduled eight hours completing a work assignment, it doesn’t mean that they’re lazy or they’re not focused or committed to the mission. It means that after eight hours, they have a family to look after. They have other things that they have going on. It doesn’t mean that they’re not going to complete the work. It doesn’t mean that they’re lazy at all. They have a different view of how to get the work done. That is exactly what you want.

As long as I was working those eight hours. 

As long as they’re working those eight hours, if they’re not, that’s another discussion. The only way that this will work is when people, especially in business leaders, create a safe environment. It’s an environment where people don’t feel being judged or criticized or ridiculed for coming up with ideas. There are certain ways that you can create that safe environment to make sure that people that they are acknowledged, that they do feel supported. They’re not the one raising their hand because they don’t want to be the one that came up with that dumb idea. I talk about how to create a safe environment in the workplace and some stories about why people aren’t safe in the workplace, not violence-wise, but they don’t feel supported because of the environment, the culture that’s in the environment.

I’ve worked in a lot of different environments and I know a lot of them aren’t as supportive as others. It’s hard when you work around people where you don’t respect one another or there are different issues. I had a guy who I was told was a jerk and he was doing things that I would consider jerky things to say to me. I confronted him and then I realized he had no idea that came across that way. He was trained by the people who he reported to that way. Opening up lines of communication is huge. Probably opening up a line of communication with Steve Jobs would have changed nothing. Even though I would probably have liked to work for him because he was a genius and I’m one of those people that want to be on that ride, sometimes it’s worth putting up with, but is there a time when you think, “It’s time to cut bait?”

Yes, there’s a time when you do that. When you have tried, it doesn’t matter who it is. There is a time when it is time to cut bait, especially there’s harassment involved. It’s affecting your health and wellbeing. The job on top of that isn’t rewarding. That’s something that people need to understand and come up with an exit strategy about how to do that. The thing is there are so many times that people have done that. This is nothing new. That’s what I put forward. Many people, because they can’t get along with someone, they decide to quit and get a new job and that’s fine and all. I don’t know if you’ve ever seen the movie Wall Street. Michael Douglas’s character, he says something to the effect of, “The same dog, different fleas.” You can still run into a situation where you’re dealing with the jerk. If it’s just too much for you, yes, it is time to cut bait, especially if you’re going to compromise is your health and wellbeing, it is time. Without these traits that are outlined in the book, you always run into a situation where you can always avoid.

Could you be the jerk without realizing it? In the example I gave of the other person, maybe they don’t even want to work and they’re looking at her as a jerk because, “You’re making it so I can’t go to the beach.” How do you know if you’re the jerk instead of your boss?

That’s a good question too. A lot of times, people don’t know that there are jerks unless someone points it out to them or unless they read my book or attend any of my workshops. It’s hard for them to realize that. One of the ways that people can achieve this awareness is through training, through working with me to help that out. There are some key factors of people who are jerks and don’t realize it. There’s a Gallup poll out there that shows that 60% of employees are disengaged in the workplace because either they’re just not happy with working with someone or they’re having difficulty working with a boss. That’s 60%, so they’re doing just the bare minimum. One of those indicators is especially the leaders if they identify this is productivity. It’s how well people are being engaged in the workplace. If you are disengaged, there could be an underlying problem that they’re unaware that they’re actually a jerk and they don’t want to be engaged in the workplace.

I think a lot of people could benefit from what you talk about, what you write about and probably are interested in finding out more from you. How could they reach you?

I have a social media presence on LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook. They can search for me at Eric Williamson. My website is There’s a reference to my book there and if anyone is interested and looking for the book, they can go on Amazon and search for How to Work with Jerks.

It’s a catchy title. It’s a cute cover. I loved that. It was nice of you to be on the show, Eric. This was all interesting and I think a lot of people could get a lot of benefit from it. Thanks so much.

Thanks, Diane. I enjoyed my time with you. This was a lot of fun. I appreciate it.

It was fun and you’re welcome.

I’d like to thank Joe and Eric for being my guests. We get so many great guests on the show. If you’ve missed any past episodes, please go to You can listen to us just about everywhere else, iTunes, iHeart, Roku, or Alexa. You name it, we’ll play it for you. You pick the place and we’re there. I hope you enjoy this episode and I hope you join us for the next episode of Take The Lead radio.

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About Joe De Sena

TTL 620 | Dealing With JerksJoe De Sena founded Spartan in 2010 and has since grown the brand to be the world’s leading obstacle racing company with over 170 events in 25+ countries, 1 million-plus global participants, key sponsors including two popular TV programs and numerous other lifestyle products.

Joe has been a lifelong entrepreneur, from selling fireworks at age eight, to building a multimillion-dollar pool business in college, to founding a Wall Street trading firm. An accomplished athlete, Joe has competed in every extreme sports adventure he could find, racing more than 50 ultra-distance events in his athletic career.

About Eric Williamson

TTL 620 | Dealing With JerksEric Williamson is the president and CEO of Tailored Training Solutions, which helps organizations build stronger customer and workplace relationships. He is often referred to as the “Connector” for his ability to make his message resonate with groups, or as “the Changemaker” for his ability to inspire change and improve morale in today’s ever-changing business environment.

His programs bring out the best in people. He is known for his empathic, engaging, down to earth style. Eric’s fusion of real-life stories and his conversational techniques connect with his audience at an intimate, intense and individual level.

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